In the initial excitement of podcasting,
NEWS FLASH: PODCASTED AUDIO IS NOT FREE TO THE SUBSCRIBER! It takes bandwidth to download, MB to store, and most importantly – time to listen.
Think about it in terms of blog posts. Blog postings over a full page are LONG. Podcasts longer than a voicemail message are LONG. Podcasts over 10 minutes are REALLY LONG, and require people to schedule the listening into their free time somewhere.
The longer the post, the less likely it is that people will make time to hear it. Podcasting is not a Downloadable Radio Talk Show. With this in mind, I offer podcasters this sage advice to reduce the length of your podcasts, and increase your number of subscribers:
BREAK IT DOWN
Break your recording into sections and label them like Blog posts so people can pick and choose what they listen to, as well as skip to the next post without having to listen to the entire thing. Think of how music CDs work – instead of releasing an entire CD as a single post (like Jethro Tull’s ‘Thick as a Brick’), release each track separately.
Instead of releasing an Hour-long talk show, release each topic within the show as a separate 5-10 min post (Are you listening Engadget? Dave Slusher?)
COMMERCIALS AND MUSIC BREAKS
Honestly. Why are you putting commercials and music breaks in your podcast? Unless the purpose of the blog post is to review the music or product, there’s no need to break up your technology post or book review podcast with your “kewl tunez”. Yes, people can FF past them if they want, but that’s not the point. If people subscribe to your podcast for information, then inform them. If they subscribe to your podcast for entertainment, then entertain them. If they wanted to hear music, they’d get it from i-tunes.
EDIT YOUR CONTENT
HEY! I’m a geek with a microphone! Here me stumble over my lines like my first day in Theater class and say “Ummmm” and “Ahhhhhh”!!! How Unprofessional! And it’s reaching the Entire Blogosphere! Hehehe…
No one expects podcasts to be professional; it’s part of the geeky, quirky, kitchiness of the medium that makes it interesting. So editing mistakes out isn’t necessary, although it will make you sound more professional.
Editing for content is another matter. If you drift off topic for too long, or experience technical problems, you owe it to your audience to cut that crap right straight out. If you are tech savvy enough to do a podcast, you can also cut up or re-record your audio before posting it. Unless people are tuning in just to hear you talk, you shouldn’t ramble. If you drift off-topic, edit.
Please don’t do this.
A prime example of wasting your listener’s time is Adam Curry’s 1-7-05 Daily Source Code post, [Jan 2010 Update: This particular podcast was pulled from Adam Curry’s site.] weighing in at just over 43min long. After 4 min into the podcast, he still had not started yet! He rambles disjointedly about how the previous recording didn’t work, and how he bought a coconut, and how good the coconut tastes, and how a coconut makes an unwieldy drinking container, and that the ceiling fan in his hotel room is noisy, and he actually turns it on for you to prove it, and he did actually BLOW HIS NOSE, which just wastes the listeners time and makes him come off as an arrogant douchebag who just likes to hear his own voice, and thinks you are fascinated enough with his life to want to hear the sounds he makes in the bathroom.
I pick on Adam Curry because he should know better, given his background, and his self-proclaimed status of evangelist in the field of podcasting. He should be setting the standard. Drifting off-topic for a moment is OK and fun and sometimes funny, but pissing away the first 4 min of a 45 min post is rude to the listener. Expect them to do what I did: Unsubscribe. Worse, if the majority of podcasts behave this way, the entire technology will not see the adoption rate I’m sure we would all like.
Mike Lehman’s ‘Manic Minute‘ is a bit extreme in the other direction, giving the current news of the day in only 60 seconds, but it’s obvious that Mike realizes that his listener’s time is valuable, and he doesn’t dare piss it away like Adam Curry. Something between these two extremes better suits the medium.
THE FUTURE OF PODCASTING
Podcasting is still a fledgling area, one with great potential. It also has the great potential to suck if everyone blathers for an hour a day. Look at it this way; let’s pretend the average podcast listener only has one hour per day to listen to podcasts. Are they going to listen to your shitty, hour-long ranting and time-wasting? Or are they going to subscribe to a handful of short, informative and entertaining podcasts?
Think about it. Cut your podcasts down, work less, and get a bigger audience. Once you have 10,000 subscribers who can’t get enough of your voice, then you can quit your day job, hire a staff of writers, and then you can post an hour a day podcast.
PS: On a side note, I would just like to say that I hate the term “podcasting” more than anyone, but even I realize it’s too late to change it now. Just let it go. As bad as it is, I can’t imaging a term worse than “Blog”, which is one of the sounds a toilet makes, and no one seems to mind that.